How do you tune out negative voices and live a life of true joy? Let’s face it…if you’re achieving anything in life, a large percentage of the voices you hear will be negative. So what do you do with them?

How to tune out negative voices
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Gertrude Nonterah from Working Christian Mommy shared some great ideas with me recently that I wanted to pass on to you. I love Gertrude’s tagline on her site: On the path to living an unconventionally rich life. When you’re living an unconventionally rich life, the negative voices will come. Here’s what Gertrude had to say about them.

Some years ago, my mom decided she wanted to venture into entrepreneurship by opening a convenience store. It sounded like a great idea to her until she run it by a friend of hers. This friend told her how this was a terrible idea and that entrepreneurs never really make a profit and that her chances for failure were high.

A few months later, this same woman had started a convenience store just like the one my mom had described. Her store has actually gone on to become very successful. My mom? She decided not to run her ideas by people anymore. If she wanted to do something, she would venture out and take the chance. She was no longer going to allow the voices of other people to drown her dreams.

I was a teenager when this happened and in the years since, I’ve learned to do the same. And so can you.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you don’t listen to the advice of trusted mentors and people who are more experienced than you. But I find that people often have a negative outlook on just about anything you’re doing.

“Oh you’re a stay-at-home mom?” (Code for “You must be lazy. What do you do at home all day long ?”)

“Oh, so you work outside the home?” (Code for “How selfish of you to leave your little kids in the care of others”.)

“What, you’re getting a PhD? What are you going to do after that? Teach? You know teaching doesn’t really pay.”

(Insert exasperated sigh here)

There will always be critics 

It took me a while, but I eventually have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what you do or plan to do. It can be the best idea since Amazon or Facebook. If you decide to run it by different folks, you’re assured to receive some criticism about how bad of an idea your plan is.

A lot of you are nodding your heads right this second because you’ve encountered such individuals. In fact, some of us have abandoned dreams because of what other people have said to us.

 “That’s impossible.”

“Nobody will pay you to do that.”

“Dreams are for the rich.” (or the young, the experienced, the men, the women, the single, the married, the )

Or my very personal favorite:

“Get practical”.

Get selective

Receiving advice is wonderful. In fact, it’s foolish to be resistant to advice. Everybody needs a mentor (check out How to Find a Mentor) and there is good advice out there that will help you steer clear of the path that will lead to destruction. But when the voice of others is the reason that stands in your way of pursuing something that could be really good, it’s time to get selective and choose whom you’ll listen to.

It’s tough because sometimes it means that people, even those we love will get offended. Here’s how I’ve solved this problem for myself (it doesn’t mean I don’t come across negativity in my life. It just means I am slowly learning how to become immune to it.)


3 key attitudes to help you tune out negative voices


1. Everybody doesn’t need to know my business.

Once I have a conviction about something, and in my case prayed about it and sense that it is the right direction, I don’t try to run it by people to get their approval.

2. I don’t need everyone’s approval.

No matter what you do in this life, some people will approve of you. Others won’t. Stop living your life just so that you can be on everyone’s good side. In the long run, it doesn’t benefit anyone; especially you.

3. “What will I regret?

In my mid-twenties, I decided I would live a life of no regrets. It wasn’t that I was going to do every wild thing I hadn’t done when I was a teenager. Instead, I will take steps of faith in the direction I desire to go and if I made mistakes along the way, I will simply rise up, brush myself off (maybe cry for a minute), learn my lesson and move on.

I ask myself “What will I regret if I don’t (or do) take this step?”

For some of us, this means we need to surround ourselves with people who are truly interested in our success. These are the people who will support us when we need it and give us constructive criticism when needed. These people are rare. But they do exist.

Related Post: This 1 Thing Will Silence Your Critics Forever

What decision have you taken and backed out on because you’ve listened to the voice of others? What will you differently now?

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14 thoughts on “How to Tune out Negative Voices

  1. Zechariah Newman says:

    Great post. My wife and I are in the planning stages ofmoving. We would have done soyears earlier if we would have ignored negative voices.

    1. Gertrude Nonterah says:

      Glad you’re finally making that move Zechariah. It’s amazing what negative voices will prevent us from doing.

  2. Jana Botkin says:

    Last night a friend said, “What other people say or think about me is none of my business.”

    If I had listened to the negative voices, I would have never gone full time as an artist, or started a mural project in the town where my studio used to be or learned to oil paint and then moved into murals or begun the three year book project which is about ready to go to press.

    Hands held tightly over ears, repeat after me in a loud voice, “LALALALALALA” and then you can’t hear those negative voices.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I like that approach Jana! 🙂

    2. Gertrude Nonterah says:

      Haha. Great technique Jana. 😀

  3. Steve Pate says:

    It came from my Dad many years ago, I was pursuing to be a fighter pilot and always wanted to be one, but he would say, “your going to be to tall or not be smart enough.” It suck to hear that. -This coming from a guy who hated his job but worked it for 32 years.-

    I was about the same age as Gertrude when I decided to not let people’s negative voices dictate what I can and can not do.

    Great post Matt and thanks for sharing.

    ps- in the game of golf, has helped me to not, poison my own pool.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Golf will do that. Any sport exposes your negative thoughts in real-time. The mind, especially in sports, doesn’t understand “don’t.”

      “Don’t hit it right” = The ball is going to go right.

    2. Gertrude Nonterah says:

      Ugh. It’s hardest when it comes from the people closest to us ! I sometimes think it’s because maybe people like our parents care too much and don’t want us to get our hopes too high and then get disappointed. But where is the fun in a life like that ?

      I’m glad you took the decision to not allow the voices of drown out your dreams.

      Did you ever become a fighter pilot though ?

  4. Larry Carter says:

    Great post. We have enough negative voices going on in our heads without adding to them.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      So true Larry! We are our own worst critics and enemies it seems.

  5. I can’t recall anything I’ve back out of but I have been close to pursuing opportunities a few times that my gut told me not to because I listened to others. Luckily I choose my gut feeling over the opinion of others. Great post Matt!

  6. Gertrude Nonterah says:

    Thanks for having me on your blog Matt !

  7. Gertrude Nonterah says:

    Thanks for having me on your blog Matt !

  8. justindirose says:

    This is really great. Bad thoughts lead to bad actions. Or inaction.

    An important point to note is there can often seem to be a fine line between negativity and criticism. Some people may not be very talented at constructively criticizing, so it can come across as negative and pushy, but really, they’re trying to say “Hey, something smells fishy here…”

    For sure have to have some fine-tuned ears and the ability to ask questions back. A good question will for certain reveal whether someone is a nay-sayer or a loving critic.

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